It is our tenth wedding anniversary this week and in keeping with tradition we have arranged it so that the Lovely Wife books where we go and celebrate – we take turns on doing it which is always fun, although for me it means that I cannot decide which of the huge pile of guidebooks and gazetteers to take with me.
This year because our anniversary falls mid week that means a week’s holiday (how terrible, I obviously despair from being away from work for a whole week) and this terrible ordeal is taking place in the Herefordshire village of Weobley.
That’s pronounced Webley, rather than Wibley which is probably historically more accurate (apparently) or Weebly, which to my inner child, who played with a people who wobbled but did not fall down, would be far funnier.
In the end it is a lovely, friendly village with good shops, a great pub and a magnificent medieval church. Everyone here is terribly friendly. That said, it is a retirement centre, clearly; apart from the handful of teenagers mainlining the local Tyrell’s crisps on the small central green (surmounted by a giant metal magpie, in honour of the black and white medieval houses that populate the area but making us feel ever so slightly nervous the thunder and lightning we have had this week in the evening – though the only actual casualty of that seems to have been a Vodafone mobile phone mast based on the sudden loss of signal) the predominant hair colour is certainly gray. The poor curate of the local ministry looks about twelve in comparison to his congregation, bless him.
This is cider country. Or at least apple tree country, not filled with square Hereford beef cattle as perhaps we should expect (though there are a few), but instead field after field of trees just coming into blossom. Sadly, most of these apples are going into Bulmers brands including the ubiquitous Strongbow, and it seems locally there is a bit of a backlash with most places stocking pretty much any other brand you can mention and shoving the bottles of Bulmers into a corner in embarrassment. I was personally amused to see that woodpecker cider still exists (as a Victim Of Advertising I recall it as being sold as ‘Hereford Lightning’ and then later advertised by a giant laughing hedgehog crushing cars, which gives you some inkling of what lodges in my brain, possibly under the influence of the alcoholic pop that is over sweet cider). Bulmers even had the cheek to slap a wooden woodpecker on the restored organ in Hereford cathedral; well I guess they paid for and it is better than having several arrows sticking out between the organ pipes that were probably the alternative.
Incidentally, if you happen to be in Hereford (unlikely, this is country that is bypassed by pretty much every major route, and most of the locals seem to like it that way, thank you very much) do pop into the cathedral for the Mappa Mundi – there is a charge to see it but it is worth it to see this medieval map of the world painted on calf skin; it’s fascinating, covered in allegory and humorous beasts and one of those things that the more you look at it the more fun it becomes. Personal best bit is where the artist has pictured the flight of the Israelites from Egypt and their wanderings in the desert in Exodus by a thick line that loops and curls around like a child might scrawl on a piece of paper or a Monty Python skit with the animated line accompanied by a dry Michael Palin narration.
The world is a much funnier place in my head.
But I am not making up the thing about the hedgehog. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4WKjy76uhI